With this year’s Academy Awards just around the corner, we look back at Coca-Cola’s lifetime achievements in film.

Every year, the Oscars celebrates the great and the good of the film industry. And, with tinsel town rolling out the red carpet ready for the 91st Academy Awards this Sunday (or Monday morning, for us this side of the Atlantic), we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane to see how Coca-Cola’s played its own starring role over the years.

From onscreen prop to essential scene-setter, we’ve featured in some of Hollywood’s biggest and most iconic moments. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of our biggest cameos, and a look at the work that goes on behind the scenes to make them happen…

A century in film

While Coca-Cola might not appear in the list of this year’s Oscar nominees, our iconic drinks brand has played its own supporting role in a string of blockbusters, dating back to the early 1900s.

Coca-Cola’s distinctive branding made its first major screen appearance in the 1933 fantasy adventure classic King Kong, with the film featuring Coca-Cola advertising on a Times Square billboard to help bring its New York setting to life for cinema goers.

Since then, Coca-Cola has enjoyed an enduring career on the silver screen in films made on both sides of the pond.

Legendary director, producer and screenwriter Stanley Kubrick memorably wrote a Coca-Cola vending machine into the script of the 1964 film, Dr Strangelove. Produced in the UK and starring British screen icon, Peter Sellers, the film is a satire tour de force, depicting rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In the scene, a character instructs his sidekick to shoot the vending machine for its change, with the sidekick replying that he will “have to answer to The Coca‑Cola Company.”

Director extraordinaire Ridley Scott, meanwhile, featured a Coca-Cola sign in his 1982 sci-fi masterpiece, Blade Runner, to show, as he explained it, “that even in a futuristic dystopian world, Coca-Cola is everlasting.” Even if that dystopian future was set in 2019.

Such is Coca-Cola’s status as an ingrained part of our cultural landscape that it continues to be used by filmmakers today as shorthand for the familiar.

Coca-Cola also plays a cameo role in hits such as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, for example – in which the Coca‑Cola sign in London’s Piccadilly Circus displays a rallying message to Bridget – and in rom-zom-com (that’s a ‘romantic comedy with zombies’, by the way), Shaun of the Dead.

You can see a great slideshow of our onscreen appearances here.

But – from Superman 2 to E.T., and Home Alone to Independence Day – the times Coca-Cola has cropped up in blockbuster movies are way too numerous to fully list here. What’s important is this: every time that happens, there’s secret work going on behind the scenes to make sure our presence stays true to the scene at hand…

Creating believable settings

“Whether it’s a painted wall sign in the background or a bottle on the table, Coke is often organic to the scene,” explains Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan. “As producers have created movies over the years, Coke had to be there because it belongs.”

In fact, demand for Coca-Cola products, signs and adverts became so high in Hollywood’s golden era that we set up an office in Los Angeles in the 1950s specifically to focus on the authenticity of references to the brand on the silver screen.

From then on, if studios needed a Coke bottle from a particular year to help bring the look and feel of a particular era to life, they knew where to go.

Coca-Cola set up an office in Los Angeles in the 1950s specifically to focus on the authenticity of references to the brand on the silver screen.

Today, the job of matching film scripts to the right Coca-Cola cans, bottles, crates, signs and other memorabilia falls to Michael Nusinow, who’s been advising film studios on Coca-Cola product placement for 25 years:

“We have so many things at our fingertips that can make scenes look realistic and add colour and context to the time and place they're trying to recreate,” he says.

Coca-Cola plays a big role behind the screen and in front of it.

Increasingly, those shots are part of period TV shows like Mad Men and Stranger Things, which use Coca-Cola references to create believable, everyday settings from specific bygone eras. “We want Coke’s brands to be integrated naturally into the fabric of the shot,” Michael explains.

The result? Well, we’ve all watched films and TV shows over the years without consciously registering a reference to Coca-Cola, but… That’s kind of the whole point!

We’re so used to the brand being present in our daily lives that if our drinks didn’t make an appearance in the background here, there and everywhere, they’d probably be pretty conspicuous by their absence.

Which is why we’ll hopefully be on your screens for a long time to come.

Ireland at the 2019 Oscars

Staying up to watch this year’s Oscars? Be sure to root for the wealth of British film talent in the running to receive an iconic golden statuette.

Are you ready for this year’s Oscars?

Period drama, The Favourite, has garnered an impressive 10 nominations – including Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography by Irish-born Robbie Ryan – and was an Irish co-production by Dublin company Element Pictures to boot.

The team at Kilkenny’s own Cartoon Saloon are up for Best Animated Short with their film, Late Afternoon, and filmmaker Vincent Lambe’s Detainment is in the running for Best Live Action Short. Good luck to all involved!